The brand that made its name with squash shoes is now courting walkers â€“ with every prospect of success, writes Michael Hunter.
The year 2014 has been a pretty significant one in the history of Hi-Tec, the company founded by Dutchman Frank Van Wezel, as it marks the shoe manufacturerâ€™s 40th anniversary. Initially an outlet for Van Wezelâ€™s specialist squash shoe designs, Hi-Tec has grown to encompass sportswear, fashion and a respected line of walking boots.
While the company is still best known for the iconic Squash Classic â€“ its first ever shoe, and seller of an extraordinary 19 million pairs worldwide so far â€“ Hi-Tec has recently garnered praise and a number of awards for its growing range of walking boots, which is the part of its product range we are really interested in here.
Walking in Scotland, especially in our particularly squelchy autumn and winter seasons, necessitates a pretty serious pair of boots. Hi-Tecâ€™s new Valkyrie Lite 200 professes to be exactly that â€“ a no-nonsense boot for a no-nonsense environment.
On first unpacking, though, there is a slight whiff of the nonsense Hi-Tec so avowedly renounces â€“ these boots had me wondering first and foremost how I might connect them to my hoverboard, so much did they resemble Marty McFlyâ€™s footwear in Back to the Future. Such concerns proved to be purely superficial, however, once the boots were on.
Features of the Valkyrie Lite 200
- Durable Waterproof performance mesh upper
- i-Shield water- and stain-resistant technology
- Dri-Tec waterproof breathable membrane
- 200g Thinsulate insulation for warmth
- Ghillie and rustproof metal hardware lacing system
- Abrasion resistant rubber heel and toecap
- Ortholite sockliner with long-lasting cushioning, anti-odour and anti-microbial properties
- Vibram outsole for durability and traction
Testing the Valkyrie Lite 200
The first striking feature of the boots was just how comfortable they are. I was initially worried by the bulky appearance, and the height of the boot at the ankle â€“ but all such fears were allayed within moments.
The lightweight, padded interior of the Valkyrie is very intuitive, providing excellent ankle support whilst remaining snug and comfortable. Importantly, it also allows a great range of movement, particularly important in walking rocky trails with unexpected changes in terrain.
The combination of the flexible mesh upper and the Vibram outsole was particularly excellent on these surfaces â€“ providing grip and a solidity on the ground, while allowing the foot a degree of malleability when encountering any unexpected rocks or stones. The Vibram sole is one of the features for which Hi-Tec walking books are held in high esteem â€“ and, having tested it on these boots, I can see why. The fantastic traction of the sole gave me confidence in handling steep and slippery surfaces with no threat of losing balance or footing.
One of the most intriguing features, and one I was most keen to try out, was the waterproof nature of the boots. Having tried them on several different terrains, including mud-soaked hills and beaches â€“ and even jumping in a puddle or two â€“ my feet remained snug and cosy throughout, and the boots thoroughly watertight.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by the Valkyrie Lite 200 boots, which kept my feet warm, comfortable and blister-free even on a four-hour walk over difficult surfaces. The traction and balance was excellent, but the comfort was what will keep me wearing these boots throughout the winter.